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Dealing with driving test waiting times

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Learner driver reversing a car in a carpark

Last August, Phil Lloyd shared with you what we were doing as an agency to reduce waiting times. Since then, we’ve recruited and trained more examiners and looked at other ways where we can have a more positive impact.

However, we know there’s still more to be done as many test centres have waiting times that are still higher than we would like.

We understand the impact on both you and your pupils and are working hard to address the current situation. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing our plans for the coming months.

Current waiting times

At the moment, there are on average, around 2,600 slots available on the system to book within the next 6 weeks. However, because it’s a ‘live’ system, this number is constantly updating.

It’s worth bearing in mind that test slots will often be available earlier than the official waiting time, as this is calculated when more than 10 per cent of tests are available.

Candidates can also regularly check our online booking service on GOV.UK to find short notice cancellations.

Recruiting more examiners

As a result of our examiner recruitment campaigns last year, 193 new examiners started work at test centres across Great Britain between April 2015 and March 2016.

Since April, we’ve had a further 69 examiners start and made offers to an additional 114 people.

These campaigns will continue throughout 2016 with the next one due to start early Autumn.

Monitoring staffing levels

As well as recruiting more examiners we’re also monitoring demand and staffing levels to make sure we deploy the right number of examiners to each location.

Yet, if we want to make a real impact on waiting times, we’ll need to do more. So we’ve put plans in place to trial offering extra test appointments over the coming months.

Trialling ‘summer hours’

As part of this trial we’ll be offering extra tests during evenings and weekends at a number of tests centres across Great Britain between now and October.

We’ve asked driving examiners to sign-up to work extra hours on top of their normal working week.

We know this won’t be possible for every examiner, however, to date more than 400 examiners have signed up to work extra hours.

Check at your local centre

You can check at your local test centre to see if extra appointments are being offered. If so, please tell your pupils to check for additional available slots on the booking service.

You can also follow us on Twitter @DVSA_HelpMe for tweets about when and where extra tests are available.

Reducing cancelled tests

It will help waiting times if we can also reduce the number of tests that don’t go ahead because candidates don’t bring the right documents or a suitable vehicle. When this happens, the test is cancelled and the slot is wasted. The candidate has to book another test and pay again.

Between April 2015 and March 2016, we had to cancel 2,892 car driving tests because the candidate didn’t bring the right documents, the car wasn’t suitable, or it didn’t have L plates fitted.

A further 2,201 car tests couldn’t go ahead because the candidate arrived late.

What this means

That combined total of 5,093 car tests, each costing £62, meant that candidates lost £315,766.

It also meant that there were around 728 days of driving examiner time that weren't used for testing, which in turn puts back the date of the next available test for other candidates. It’s roughly the same as having 3 driving examiners doing no testing all year.

Help us remind your pupils what to bring

We’re reviewing the appointment confirmation emails to make them as clear as possible on what candidates need to bring with them to their test.

But we also need you to help your pupils avoid the disappointment of their test not going ahead for those reasons mentioned above. Please make sure they know about the:

Further advice

If you or your pupils need further advice, please contact our customer support team.

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  1. Comment by Kevin Elliott posted on

    How many tests for the same period were cancelled by the Dvsa within 3 working days? Including standard and part 3 tests?

  2. Comment by Andrew baxter posted on

    Why are you still advising that candidates must bring their theory test certificate? it is never asked for and in any case when they book a practical test they have to give theory test pass reference number so DVSA know already that they have passed.

  3. Comment by S. McClements posted on

    Make the job of being an Examiner worth applying for.The pay is not great and examiners being sent here and there to cover other test centres is off putting. Speaking to an Senior Examiner a few weeks ago he said to me that the Terms & Conditions and low pay are putting people off applying.I would seriously look at applying but then I would be taking a pay cut!!

    • Replies to S. McClements>

      Comment by Abigail Britten (DVSA) posted on

      Driving examiner pay is in line with wider public sector pay, and the government has a policy of an average 1% pay rise this year.

      However, there are many other benefits of working at DVSA, such as some of the best training and terms and conditions in the motoring services industry. These include:

      - competitive annual leave entitlement
      - entitlement to a civil service pension
      - family-friendly policies including flexible working
      - regular training and development
      - employee assistance programme, including a 24 hour counselling support line
      - childcare vouchers
      - retail discounts and cashback offers
      - cycle to work scheme
      - workwear and personal protective equipment and clothing for frontline staff where applicable
      - subscription-based benefits

      • Replies to Abigail Britten (DVSA)>

        Comment by chris lamport posted on

        Well there we have it soo many benefits you really don't care about service standards. I now arrive at a test centre in doubt if there are an examiners there. There are also some very unhelpful staff as well. I don't wish to look negative it's a headache for having to wait so long. 13 weeks is appalling!

    • Replies to S. McClements>

      Comment by Graham posted on

      if pay was so poor for examiners then why do they receive nearly 100 applicants per vacancy? ( mostly ADIs )

  4. Comment by P Saron posted on

    What a load of faff.....this has been going on for well over a year maybe more !!!!
    It's about logistics and D.V.S.A are rubbish at it ...gang your heads in shame ...waiting times are abysmal !!!

  5. Comment by Trev posted on

    It might be helpful if you actually passed a few students each day.

    • Replies to Trev>

      Comment by Tony Curran. www. posted on

      Trev exaimers have nothing to gain by failing pupils
      Would you really want to see pupils pass who have not reached the required standard
      I would not as we will all have to share the roads with new drivers??

  6. Comment by Mstock posted on

    It's such a shame the standard of novice driver presented for test is generally so poor. It's dissapointing instructors don't self reflect on their performance and develop their own driving , instructional techniques and learn effective coaching skills to actually teach 'Safe Dtibing for life '. This would greatly reduce waiting times and make our roads safer!poor old DVSA are doing their best , recruiting more examiners trying new initiatives , ADl's should change and raise the standard.... Go on meet DVSA half way and 1/2 the waiting times !

    • Replies to Mstock>

      Comment by Tony Curran. www. posted on

      I agree Adis who take pupils for test who are not up to the required standard are just keeping these pupils in the system and are having a great effect on the test waiting list
      As you say DVSA are working hard to bring the waiting list down but we need to help them by doing our best to present pupils who are test ready.

  7. Comment by Clifford Pittam posted on

    As a retired SDE is all I can say is working as a Driving Examiner is far better than working for a living, because training is good, also on going training, which means you end up with a very good knowledge of your subject, it is also a well respected profession when ever your asked what you do for a living and you say your a DE people are then very interested in what you have to say.
    I was an examiner for 22 years and had to retire due to ill health, but it's the best job I've ever had.

  8. Comment by Bob posted on

    Thanks for letting us know how many tests were cancelled due to wrong documents, cars, and no L plates, could you please let us know how many of the cancellations were instructor related and how many were privateers, also how many tests were cancelled due to the DVSA cancelling them by stating no examiner available.

  9. Comment by Phil Bolton posted on

    The number of lost tests constitutes 0.32%, yet this is the figure you choose to highlight and blame for the situation, which, let's face it, is a pathetic excuse for the sorry state of the waiting time debacle. Maybe if you actually assessed the standard of a candidates driving, rather than the current box ticking exercise of monitoring how many errors they commit in a 35 minute period, the pass rate would be higher and the waiting time would return to a manageble level.

  10. Comment by Ivan Westley posted on

    Think why you have lost so many examiners.

  11. Comment by Emma Ashley posted on

    Why is it necessary to take the theory test certificate? In nearly 7 years of taking candidates for test I have never known it to be asked for, neither for my pupils nor anyone else at the test centre. You cannot book it online without the theory test certificate so why is it necessary to take it?

  12. Comment by Martin Crane posted on

    Disgusting to talk about the number of tests that are cancelled due to pupils not bringing required materials, a suitable car, or arriving late. Over the past 3 years I have only ever lost one test through this (Which I fully appreciate is one too many!! I always check for the provisional before I leave the house now!), but in the past 4 months alone I've had 6 tests cancelled by the DVSA, 2 of which were at less than 24 hours notice, none of which received the common courtesy of a phone call, just a generic email explaining that there is no examiner available to conduct the test, after a 10-12 week wait, to receive such an email the day before is absolutely shocking customer service.

    I suspect a majority of the 2000+ test that you refer to are caused by pupils booking tests themselves, often before having an instructor in place, unavoidable traffic incidents on the morning of a test, resulting in lateness, illness or hospitalisation within the cancellation period, or unavoidable car failures on the day, such as bulbs tyres etc, which aren't picked up on until the test centre car park. You speak of the £315,000 wasted, although I'm sure in at least 75% of these cases pupils/instructors are painfully aware of this lost money. Still, I guess that sets up a nice kitty to have sat there for reimbursements of the same day cancellations we encounter from within the DVSA through no fault of our own. I can almost guarantee that figure is higher than the 2200; strange that that figure hasn't been mentioned though!

  13. Comment by Nick Meredith posted on

    We're waiting 12 weeks for a test appointment in Southport !!!! I've been an ADI for 32 years. Its never been this bad for so long. Judging when to book a test is extremely difficult causing more ill prepared candidates which causes more failed tests and consequently more tests being booked adding to the problem. How did it get to this? ??

  14. Comment by Martyn Shadbolt posted on

    Would also suggest that the current waiting period for a retest should be reduced to 3 days.
    I have a pupil that could have done a test this week on Wednesday at 8-10 but as it was under 10 days since her last test she could book it. That test was available on line for hours.

  15. Comment by A. Douthwaite posted on

    18 week waiting in my area with no available slots certainly is not acceptable and do's not show staffing levels have been addtessed.

  16. Comment by A Spires posted on

    Mentions how many examiners have been recruited, but how many have also left so we know what the overall net gain is?

    • Replies to A Spires>

      Comment by Thomas (DVSA) posted on

      Hi A Spires,

      Here are the figures for how many examiners have left since April 2015:

      - Retirements – 81
      - Retirements & resignations – 162
      - Leavers of any kind – 212



  17. Comment by Nick posted on

    You've quoted figures of new recruits to the dvsa but how many have left retired as your manning level gone up down or stayed the same

    • Replies to Nick>

      Comment by Thomas (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Nick,

      Here are the figures for how many examiners have left since April 2015:

      - Retirements – 81
      - Retirements & resignations – 162
      - Leavers of any kind – 212



  18. Comment by Brewster of Wirral posted on

    I've had to wait 3 months for a ADI test date, you want more DIs but you need to have more examiners and then pass them please

  19. Comment by N Bayliss posted on

    It would also be interesting to see how many tests are cancelled by the DVSA as "the examiner is not available". We know and accept that occasionally examiners are ill and tests have to be postponed however this now seems to be almost a regular thing, the last three of my pupils scheduled for test have all had their tests postponed, one was given 4 days notice and test postponed for 10 weeks. Talking to other instructors they are having similar experiences.

  20. Comment by Abi' posted on

    Why is the Theory Test certificate a required document to bring for the Practical Test (PT)?
    1. I've never seen an examiner request to see it;
    2. The Practical Test cannot be booked if the student has not passed the Theory Test.
    Would it not be an injustice to cancel the PT because a student has not brought along with them their Theory Test certificate, thereby also increasing waiting times?

  21. Comment by Mohammed. maroof. posted on

    We have the best standards of driving in the world please lets not lose it.regards Mohammed. Adi. North east.

    • Replies to Mohammed. maroof.>

      Comment by Andy Saint ADI Teaching Auto posted on

      I'm with you Mohammed. Many comments on here say "Pass more people". Are we missing the point of having a world class standard?
      I'm too am feeling the pressure from students below my own minimum 80% chance threshold, not to move their tests another 15 weeks away.
      Theory Test expiry dates have become a bigger issue because of test waiting times.

  22. Comment by James Taylor posted on

    I totally agree with a previous comment regarding the blame put on tests not going ahead due to lack of appropriate documentation or criteria necessary for the test. It is a fraction of tests that are affected by this issue & several of my students have had their tests changed by the DVSA at short notice due to the reduced availability of examiners - an issue which hasn't even been mentioned! The waiting times for tests at Wanstead, East London (which is my local test centre) have consistently been approximately 10 to 11 weeks for the past 2 years. The last time slot for tests during Winter months are understandably earlier but can be extended during Spring, Summer & Autumn months relative to daylight hours. However, I regularly pass the test centre whilst on lessons after 5pm on weekdays & the test centre is consistently closed regardless of the time of year. Furthermore, there are only extremely rare & irregular test dates available for weekend tests. The responsibility for this is not necessarily down to the examiners, as test centre budget restrictions may be a crucial factor. All good ADIs put the job & their students 1st & often work long hours as a result, which is not always due to the necessity for income. A similar work ethic & dedicated attitude towards reducing test waiting times needs to be actively encouraged by the DVSA amongst examiners along with a suitable financial incentive for doing so. This ongoing, long-term issue of unacceptable test waiting times needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Furthermore, trying to predict if a student will be ready more than 2 months in advance is practically impossible. As a result, to ensure that the candidates avoid wasting money on lessons waiting for the test, I have to estimate when my pupils will be ready. This is so that they don't peak too early & after achieving the standard required for the test, end up having to pay for lessons to maintain the standard a month or so before the test. Accurately projecting when a person will be ready for the test over 2 months in advance is an impossible task. Therefore, I have to get them to book their tests over 2 months ahead when the earliest test dates are available. Frequently, a few weeks before the test date, they need an extra 2 to 4 weeks to prepare which means that the test will need to be changed. This results in more of a delay as test dates are not available for another 10 weeks. The current situation is leading to a huge amount of candidates gambling & 'chancing it' due to not wanting to wait another 2 months or so to take the test. As much as I can advise pupils to ensure that they are 100% ready before taking the test, when faced with the long waiting times & finances involved, some choose to ignore my advice. This fundamental issue of waiting times is a greater contributory factor than the lack of necessary documentation or fulfillment of test criteria. This excessive waiting time for practical driving tests is totally inefficient & making it extremely difficult for ADIs & candidates. It is by far the greatest cause of the problem & once addressed, will facilitate a more reliable, efficient & more sustainable test booking system with less waiting times.

    • Replies to James Taylor>

      Comment by Angus McFadden posted on

      They haven't blamed it on that as far as I can see. Just pointed out that its a big problem nonetheless (if that figure is correct, then it's a huge problem).

      DVSA may not be perfect (something ADIs like to point out). But then, a lot of ADIs aren't, either, if they're taking people to test without the right documents (and not all of those will be private runners).

  23. Comment by Brian Newman posted on

    It would be interesting to see how many tests were cancelled due to Examiners going sick,

  24. Comment by Blog T posted on

    If the standard of candidates presented for the test was higher there would be more first time passes. This would dramatically improve waiting times and have a substantial effect.
    Target the core of this issue, the ADI, by giving them more training and support.

  25. Comment by andy posted on

    Lets get things correct. Examiners don't pass/fail candidates, they do it themselves. It shows within the first few minutes who is prepared to the correct standard and who is not.

  26. Comment by David Lowe ADI posted on

    stop demoralising the pool of existing examiners DVSA currently have and they may decide to stay a bit longer, problem sorted.

  27. Comment by Brian posted on

    Last August at my local test centre the waiting list was 8 weeks now and 14, how is that an improvement? I have sat at the test centre with 2 or 3 examiners sitting in the office whilst 1 or 2 tests go out. It is extra pressure to learners on a test knowing if fail a ridiculous waiting list. Instead of messing about trials for new test waiting list should be a priority.

  28. Comment by Abigail Britten (DVSA) posted on

    We routinely publish the number of tests cancelled by DVSA on GOV.UK -

    Between April 2015 and March 2016, DVSA cancelled 67,070 tests. That's too high, and we know there's more to do to reduce the number.

    We don't regularly publish the number of tests that fail to go ahead because candidates don’t bring the right documents or a suitable vehicle. Over 2,800 tests were cancelled for these reasons for the same period.

    We know that the vast majority of instructors will always check that the pupil has their licence with them before setting off on test day - and that's reflected in the numbers. We want all instructors to do this, which is why we've reminded everyone about it. It might just save the pupil the disappointment on the day of their test.

    As Peter explains in his blog post, we're doing more to improve the confirmation messages that pupils get to try and reduce these cases too. It's an area where we can all work together to make a difference.

    • Replies to Abigail Britten (DVSA)>

      Comment by Martyn Shadbolt posted on

      Why select to answer certain comments???
      The retest waiting time should be suspended Incase short time test becomes available

      • Replies to Martyn Shadbolt>

        Comment by John (DVSA) posted on

        Hi Martyn

        The waiting times for taking a retest are set out in law (The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999), so they can't be suspended.

        This would involve a change to secondary legislation, which is an amendment to current regulations.

        To amend the regulations, we have to carry out a public consultation, and conduct a financial impact, as well as gain agreement from our ministers.

    • Replies to Abigail Britten (DVSA)>

      Comment by Drivezire posted on

      I'm sure a lit if these cancelled tests are when people book without an instructor. I've seen at least 5 candidates arrive for tests without a car yet alone a provisional.

      It maybe an idea to state the need for the candidate to bring a suitable vehicle for test as the test centre does not provide cars for test.

      I have had many enquiries for last minute lessons upto 2 days before test and the candidate believes they will be tested in a car provided by the test centre.

    • Replies to Abigail Britten (DVSA)>

      Comment by TJ posted on

      Why do you still tell candidates to bring the theory test certificate, when we all no you cannot book a practical driving test with out passing theory first ?(the booking system wont let you) My pupils have not been asked for this for over 4 years, so why not just say "a valid driving licence is required", don't need theory test certificate, lets uncomplicated things !

      • Replies to TJ>

        Comment by Abigail (DVSA) posted on

        Hi TJ

        There are still a few occasions when an examiner will need to check the theory test certificate before a test can take place, so we ask all candidates to bring their certificates (in case they are needed).

        If a candidate fails to bring their certificate, the examiner will carry out checks and the test will go ahead, unless there is another reason for the cancellation.

  29. Comment by Peter (ADI) posted on

    Why do you state that the theory pass certificate must be produced? The examiners never check for these at my local test centre. They just want to see the licence. So candidates don't bring the theory cert now. However, is there a danger that suddenly they will start asking for these and cancelling more tests?

    • Replies to Peter (ADI)>

      Comment by Thomas (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Peter,

      There are still a few occasions when an examiner will need to check the theory test certificate before a test can take place, so we ask all candidates to bring their certificates (in case they are needed).

      If a candidate fails to bring their certificate, the examiner will carry out checks and the test will go ahead, unless there is another reason for the cancellation.



  30. Comment by Jamie Wright posted on

    Waiting times are longer now than they ever have been. Pupils are impatient enough. I often get the question can I book my test as the waiting time is so long. The standards are high and generally if the pupils driving is good enough they will pass. More DE are essential and I agree for a pupil to find out the day before or worst the day of the test that it's been cancelled after waiting 8/10 weeks. Is extremely poor.

  31. Comment by Les Brigham posted on

    Under your ( DVSA) comment on what documents to bring to test,
    Is this up to date as, I can not remember the last time a theory test pass certificate was asked for by an examiner.
    Can candidates book a test if they have not passed the theory test?
    Should your ( DVSA) statement be amended, ie removing the need to bring the theory test certificate?
    Thank you.

    • Replies to Les Brigham>

      Comment by Thomas (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Les,

      There are still a few occasions when an examiner will need to check the theory test certificate before a test can take place, so we ask all candidates to bring their certificates (in case they are needed).

      If a candidate fails to bring their certificate, the examiner will carry out checks and the test will go ahead, unless there is another reason for the cancellation.



  32. Comment by geoff russell posted on

    67000 tests cancelled by dvsa in 11 months. that says it all.i,ve had 3 tests cancelled in the last 3 months by less than 24 hours. the pupil loses their money if they did that but nothing the other way.can you understand why so many adi's are unhappy with the system and WHY must they wait 10 working days for a retest!!!!if the examiners were a touch more human on test day then the pupils would relax a little more.enough said!!!!

  33. Comment by Angus McFadden posted on

    Of course, on the plus side, there is far less of an issue with pupils trying to book tests before they're ready (and the unpleasantness that inevitably comes with that). A longer waiting time means we can book tests on my terms. since there's no alternative.

    With all new pupils I immediately warn them that there's a long wait, and that they need to get on to the theory test as soon as possible. That takes several weeks (and several lessons) during which time I can assess them, and unless they're one of the slow ones we can usually book the practical test with the condition that if they're coming up to test ready with time to spare we can just cut back on lessons until nearer the time, or look for a cancellation.

    I don't know if I'm missing something by not taking on all the angst of my learners, but although the wait is long - too long - compared with what it has been in the past, it isn't anywhere near as much of a problem as some seem to make it.

    It's what it is, and you work with it.

  34. Comment by Abigail Britten (DVSA) posted on

    There are still a few occasions when an examiner will need to check the theory test certificate before a test can take place, so we ask all candidates to bring their certificates (in case they are needed).

    If a candidate fails to bring their certificate, the examiner will carry out checks and the test will go ahead, unless there is another reason for the cancellation.

  35. Comment by Tom posted on

    Why don't we all work together to make the improvements in cutting the waiting times, It's in all of our interests as stakeholders...? I have no doubt we can all pull together on this and turn things around instead of pointing the finger of blame. The DVSA have my backing on how they are addressing the issue.

  36. Comment by Alan Pocock posted on

    One of the problems with evening tests would be traffic conditions. If you extend the day for test availability you may spend some of the test just sitting in rush hour traffic ie 4.30-6.00. If you go further into mid evening ie. 6.00-8.00pm then the traffic dies away to very light flow so neither situation would give a good indication of a new drivers ability. When I have done Saturday tests the traffic is light (less commercial vehicles, no school traffic) and my results have always been better than weekday tests. The other problem is the willingness of instructors to work evenings! The simple answer is more examiners but it will take time to recruit and train them. Instead of almost abusive comments towards the DVSA we have to work with the system, do our job in getting the pupils ready and try to improve the first time pass rate whilst still making them safe drivers for life. The last point I would like to make is that it is about making safe drivers and for all it's faults the system we have is a lot better than other countries.

  37. Comment by Richard Smith posted on

    I had a pupil receive a short notice cancellation (less than 24 hours) by email which stated that 'your instructor has cancelled your test! I had one hell of a job convincing him that I could not possibly cancel his test because I did not book it for him. He eventually received an apology from the DVLA and a new test date some 6 weeks later. He was ready for his test on the original date but wouldn't take any more lessons in between. (Thought he knew all about driving, been driving without a licence for years!) As a consequence of not keeping his hand in he failed abysmally and gave up attempting to pass a test. He is probably now driving illegally again!

  38. Comment by sajidislam1 posted on

    A With all new pupils I immediately warn them that there's a long wait, and that they need to get on to the theory test as soon as possible. That takes several weeks (and several lessons) during which time I can assess them, and unless they're one of the slow ones we can usually book the practical test with the condition that if they're coming up to test ready with time to spare we can just cut back on lessons until nearer the time, or look for a cancellation.

  39. Comment by Sarah F posted on

    It would worth looking into what is deemed a serious fault to be honest. I failed my driving test a week ago, in the last minute of the exam, due to "being to close to a parked car" (driving at 20 mph speed) while the rest of the test went very smoothly, with only 2 minor faults. It didn't felt like I was too close to that car either (I made no contact with the other vehicle obviously). I understand that allowing reckless drivers on the roads would be a poor decision, but I would consider this a minor mistake in a real life situation. Also it would help if the atmosphere of the test would be a little bit more relaxed, as it could be quite stressful when the examiner is so cold and robotic. Looking ahead for a 3 months waiting time till I can attend my next exam..